The Dark Palace
Rose was about three miles from the dark palace now. They had been marching for most of the morning and it was heading towards the hottest part of the day. The palace loomed in front of her like a black cloud with lightning about to strike out of it. It just had such a heavy energy and as they got closer all of them could feel the negativity pouring from it. Rose was not looking forward to this at all. She was glad that George had caught up with her and was very pleased to meet Eldred and the other dragons too. At first it had seemed so strange to see George as a dragon but then as he said, it was strange for him to see her as a horse. Everything in this place was strange! Rose was also quite relieved to hear that the other dragons were bringing further reinforcements and that they, along with the horses would only be a few hours behind them and that this would be a strong deterrent for Maura even thinking of attacking them, Sunny and Eden had assured her.
Rose had no idea of what she was going to say to Maura and she hoped that something amazing would happen inside her. The others had said that when the time is right she will know what to do. All she could do was keep moving forward and when she was face to face with her just wait and see what would happen.
That moment was inching closer as they would soon be there and as they approached there were all sorts of ugly looking statues with deformed faces and bodies lined up along the path.
“I don’t like the look of this place at all,” said George eyeing each of the statues nervously, “and we’re not even inside yet!”
“I know it’s really giving me the creeps,” said Rose.
As they got closer and closer to the dark palace Sunny stopped suddenly and looked back at them. “Wait,” he said. “Do you hear that?”
At first it was a faint drumming noise but within a few seconds it had got much louder and in the distance they could see a figure approaching them rapidly.
“Looks like Maura is sending us a welcome party,” said Sunny intently. “Let’s wait here and let them approach.”
So they waited and watched as the figure became clearer and clearer and the drumming noise got louder and louder and finally they could see that it was a large grey horse with a monkey riding on top of it banging a drum.
The horse slowed when it came within speaking distance and eyed them suspiciously before he spoke. “Her excellency, Queen Maura has decided to grant you an audience. Consider her terms” and with that the monkey threw a small black crystal onto the ground which burst into life and projected the face of a very grey evil looking horse, glaring her eyes directly at Rose.
“That’s Maura,” whispered Eden.
“I think I guessed that,” replied Rose.
“So I hear that you have come here from another world. How exciting! I bet you are having a wonderful time,” started off Maura as she laughed sarcastically, the words almost spat through her gritted teeth. “Well since you are here we should get to know each other. Follow my messenger Krynto and I will grant you an audience. You never know, you might prove yourself useful to me somehow.” Maura laughed her evil laugh and just as quickly as she had appeared she vanished again from sight. The crystal flew back up into the monkey’s hand and the horse turned and galloped back off towards the palace.
“We must do as she says Rose,” said Sunny. “If she wanted to fight she would have sent her General not her messenger. Besides, this is your message from King Abner and Queen Alva. You must trust their message. Come on let’s go and get this over with.”
So they continued their march straight up to the gates of the dark palace. It really was an awful place. Everything was black or grey and covered in spikes and shards of crystals that looked as though they hadn’t sparkled for hundreds of years. There were bars and cages everywhere and behind all of them were snarling horrible looking versions of what once must have been friends and family of the animals they were with now. It was hard to make them out as everything was so grey but some looked like lions and some looked like horses. The atmosphere was so depressing and doom and gloom surrounded them.
“Maura keeps some of her worst followers locked up on display as a warning to all of the others. To stop any of them even considering trying to turn back to us. They take one look at these poor souls and they are scared out of their minds and just can’t see a way out,” said Sunny looking around in dismay as they entered through the castle gates across a large drawbridge. Underneath each side of the drawbridge the ground just seemed to disappear into nowhere, they were so far off the ground. It wasn’t long before they went through a large doorway into the main section of the castle and at the end of a long corridor they came to another large gateway. Krypto snarled at them and said,
“Wait here,” before disappearing through the gate and leaving them behind. A few moments later the gate swung open with a loud creak and they were greeted by a crowd of snarling animals, screaming and shouting and snapping at them and this time there were no bars holding them back. In front of them at the end of a long black carpet were a large number of steps leading up to a platform. On that platform were two black crystal thrones. One was emptyand on the other sat the ugliest, blackest horse that Rose had ever seen.
“Silence,” Maura screeched. “Approach, slowly.” She dragged out the word slowly and laughed again, her laugh was more like a high pitched cackle which echoed all around the room. “No,” Maura shouted, as they started to walk forwards. “Just the two of you.” She pointed to Rose and George. “You two come forward to me. The rest of you, that’s as far as you go.”
Sunny nodded at Rose and George and they slowly walked forward and stood at the bottom of the steps.
“Come up, come up” Maura hissed.
Rose couldn’t believe how ugly Maura was but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was her smell. It was shocking and smelled like a cross between rotten eggs and rotten cabbages. At one point she thought she was going to throw up but she managed to get a grip and taking a deep breath she looked up at Maura and said, “My name is Rose and this is my brother George. I have come here because I have been sent a message by King Ab..”
“Do not speak that name here!” screamed Maura. “Never ever mention that name.”
“I’m sorry,” stammered Rose, starting to shake. Her confidence wavering. “I have come here because I have a message. The message told me to come to you because I am looking for my mother and father and you may be able to help me find them.”
“Help you!” said Maura sneering at Rose. “Why would I ever help you.” Suddenly her face changed slightly and it was clear that a thought had crossed her mind. She laughed again, this time more genuinely and looked at Rose with the most sincere face she could manage. “I’m sorry dear. We seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot. I will do my best to help you, if you also help me.”
“Ok,” said Rose hesitantly.
“Tell me everything you know about your parents.”
Rose started to tell Maura about how she had been adopted and that she had a photo of a house that she had dreamed of and that her parents had left her with a tiara. She also told her about the crystals they found in the woods that had brought them there.
“I see,” said Maura smiling. “Very interesting. It seems that your mother and father have wanted you to come to that house and to find the crystals. Very well. You have indeed helped me and now I shall help you. Your parents are most probably dead.”
“No that’s not true,” shouted Rose.
“Don’t you dare say that,” said George, springing to Rose’s defence.
“Believe what you want but they fled this land like cowards and it looks like they gave you up; knowing that they wouldn’t survive for long in your world and that they were too weak to return here. My brave husband Nerrez, chased after them, risking his life to try and bring them back. He has been gone ever since and it’s all their fault.” She looked down, faking a cry with a pathetic whimper. “He’s probably dead too. That’s all I have to say on the matter. You must leave at once and do not ever come back here again or you will most certainly pay the price.”
“Don’t listen to her Rose, it’s not true,” said George. “Come on let’s go. We’ll find them somehow. There must be another way.”
Rose looked at Maura and then back at George. “You’re right, let’s get out of here.”
They walked back to Sunny and the others and fled the dark palace, riding as fast as they could back to the horse’s kingdom, making it just before nightfall. Rose’s head was spinning and all she could think was that deep inside she knew that her parents were not dead. They were still leading her and guiding her somehow. She talked over their options with the others and decided that they would try to bring the crystals in with them next time they transported. Maybe if they had them with them it would give them a clue as to what to do next. They would also search deeper into the woods to see if they could find any trace of Abner and Alva. Hopefully, Issy, Callum, Alex, Ruby and Violet would arrive sometime tomorrow and then at least with all of them together they could make sure they all stayed safe and could work something out. There was nothing else they could do at this point and as Rose lay there ready to sleep she hoped that they could find something back in the woods that would lead her closer to finding her parents. It looked like every one of them needed them in one way or another.
Back inside the dark palace Maura stood tall and proud in front of her hideous followers and shouted at the top of her voice “Yesssssss!! It is time! Nerrez will be back here soon. Those fools are no match for him. Prepare our full army, assemble all of the troops. We will be going to war again and this time none of them will be able to resist. This is the end of the crystal kingdom. The end for Velaro Fore!”